Thursday 10 May 2012

Material Innovation... Nigerian experience at Bamako symposium

By Tajudeen Sowole
First published on Tuesday, 10 August 2010)
At the just concluded gathering of selected artists from across Africa, Europe and the U.S., held in Bamako, Mali, participants agreed that the development of the continent lies in making the best of local resources.

THE event, 2nd Bamako Symposium On The Arts and tagged Tapping Local Resources for Sustainable Development In the 21st Century offered Nigerian artists an opportunity to share the local experience as regards alternative medium. 

However, this experience was relayed by the only representative of the country at the event, painter Victoria Udondian. She said her presentation on Nigerian art focused artists here who are experimenting with alternative medium.
About 13 countries were represented at the event. Some of the participants are: Lassana Igo Diarra, Publisher, Editor, Chairman of Summer School of Bamako; Hama Goro                                

Artist, Director, Soleil d’Afrique; Abdoulaye  Deyioko; Barthosa Nkurumeh, artist and Educator, USA/Nigeria; Mamadou Diane    Artist, Painter, Designer, Infographist, Mali; Kris Kumar, Professor of Industrial Design, University of Botswana; Zoran Markovic, professor of Industrial Design, University of Botswana.
Udondian who just returned from the trip said her presentation titled Nigerian Arts and Material Innovation was “about my works and few other Nigerian artists who have innovated in terms of material content.”

And there are lessons from others such as in Malian art institutes, museum, conservatorium and Theatre, which she explained were involved in arts training to complement the trainings conducted by the country’s National Arts Institute (INA). She also noted that arts centres offer technical support to the artists through regular capacity building efforts. These structures, she said, are funded and managed by Mali’s ministry of culture that funds the main institutions.

The Moroccan experience, she said, also highlighted the possibility to utilise abandoned structures. “As most of these structures bare a historical significance, using them as a cultural space would help in preserving their history.”

And to remove financial obstacles, there is what she described as Cultural Development Trust which “were of innovative interest as the trainings did not end with one or two participants, but extended to the organisation.” 

Other issues discussed included the future of cultural subsidies and their role in the process tapping local resources. The meeting also debated the focus of African artists: local or international market.
As finance is a factor impeding the growth of art, a Malian group had a presentation. “The organisation called MISELINI highlighted the challenges being faced to implement the micro finance mechanism for artists in Mali. The key challenges are: the guarantee (surety) of the loan for an artists and the assessment of the works that could be seen as viable to pay back the loan.”

The regular search for alternative medium back home was stressed by Udondian as she informed her audience about “some Nigerian artists who have explored the possibility to work with diverse materials despite their formal training in painting and sculpture.”

The eight-days event included workshops and field visits. Some of the themes are: The Cultural Entrepreneurship: Tapping Local Resources; Some Reflections and Visual Arts Perspectives and Practices – Alice Gqa Nongebeza and other Women Potters of Eastern Cape University; Tapping Local Resources: IN Arts Village Project in the Sub Sahara; Redefining Local Identities Through Art. The Case of Polish Public Art Project: The Minerat; Visual s As a Philosophical Concept: Roots and Evolution; Social Act: Global Collaborations in Site

Among the places visited were an edifice she described as similar to the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos; National Museum of Mali; National Conservatorium; Soil Architecture Institute. “Of particular interest were the visits to the Sun of Africa Centre, a centre that supports and promotes the development of arts through provision of a working space for both artists and arts managers especially in visual arts but also in other fields.”

At individual level, Udondian explained that, her work “is rooted in traditional materials and socio political issues with focus on human activities which are linked to culture, environments, history, politics and human sexuality.” For her, themes and ideas are linked to different materials, techniques and contemporary trends, as “I find this miscellany of art most interesting.”

Also on the list of participants are: Mariam Mayoumbila, culture entrepreneur and Djamal Ahmat Mahamat     Chad; John Steele, lecturer and ceramicist, South Africa; Monika Bobako Assistant professor, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland; Andrzej W. Nowak Assistant Professor, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland; Nobuho Nagasawa, Artist, Professor, State University of New York, Stony Brook University; Elisabeth Mayr-Melkonyan    Artist, Educator, inns brooks university, Ausria; Seble Welde Amanuael, Artist, Ethiopia; Adrian Maanka ChipindiAssistant Director – National Arts Council of Zambia; Maria kint Director Cultural Development Trust, South Africa; Janet Goldner, Artist, New York University.

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